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Vandalism a possible cause of Lyft e-bike fires

Published August 2, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO (BRAIN) — Bike-share company Lyft said Friday vandalism has not been ruled out as the cause for two Bay Wheels e-bikes catching fire in the past week and sidelining the entire fleet.

A Lyft spokesperson told BRAIN Friday the investigation is ongoing and added it's unclear "whether the bikes and batteries were tampered with or vandalized. We are seeing increased rates of vandalism on our bikes in San Francisco."

The San Francisco Bay Area has experienced share-bike vandalism in the past with some residents upset about gentrification, housing and income inequality. In a 2017 story, The Guardian reported the Ford GoBike program, rebranded Bay Wheels in June, had been the target of numerous acts of bike vandalism.

Bay Wheels e-bikes had logged 100,000 rides since the launch, and the concern is only with them and no others in the Lyft system, the spokesperson said.

Citi Bike in New York City will roll out a new e-bike in the fall, and that remains on schedule, Lyft reiterated.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency told BRAIN on Thursday it has been in contact with Lyft and is disappointed in the disruption of the e-bike service. It could not be reached for comment Friday on the possibility of vandalism playing a part.

The first Bay Wheels e-bike ignited Saturday and the other on Wednesday, when Lyft suspended the e-bike service. Nobody was injured.

In April, Lyft's e-bike service was halted in New York after some riders in complained of excessive front brake force on its Citi Bikes. In June, Lyft unveiled the newly spec'ed Bay Wheels e-bike that featured a new model front brake.

Lyft did not disclose whether it determined the front brake problems were from equipment malfunction, improper spec', maintenance or operator error. Shimano released a statement to BRAIN three days after the Citi Bikes were pulled, maintaining its brakes were not at fault.

Vandalism is being investigated as a cause for two Lyft e-bikes igniting.

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